When you think about a hate crime, you probably have images in your head of racially or religiously motivated actions. But a story out of Maryland is putting a new spin on what could be considered a hate crime. And unlike the liberal narrative that conservatives have been responsible for a spike in hate crimes, this one was carried out against a Trump supporter.
From The Hill:
Two Maryland teenagers have been charged with a hate crime for lighting a President Trump sign on fire.
The two teenage girls are accused of lighting a “Make America Great Again” sign on fire in Princess Anne, Md.
Princess Anne deputy chief fire marshal Caryn. L McMahon told The Baltimore Sun the reason for charging the two women with a hate crime was because they committed arson “with discrimination or malice toward a particular group, or someone’s belief.”
Typically, political beliefs have been left out of the traditional definition of hate crimes. However, authorities in Maryland see things differently. In fact, they’re making the connection between political affiliation and a person’s race or religious background:
“The intentional burning of these political signs, along with the beliefs, religious views and race of this political affiliation, directly coincides with the victim,” a Princess Anne police officer wrote in documents for the hate crime charge.
The charges are a new twist in a period of increased attention for hate crimes. Following the election, many claimed that Trump’s election had caused a spike in hate crimes against minorities, although that narrative has been largely debunked. Debate also raged about who can be the victim of hate crimes after the brutal beating of a white man was streamed live on Facebook.
The news also comes shortly after a gunman targeted white people in Fresno, CA. Hate crime charges seem likely in that case as well, but one might question the motivation as the killer shouted “Allahu Akbar” while shooting. So was he hating white people or infidels?
Whether or not hate crime charges will stick in the case of these two teens remains to be seen. If they do, the case could set a new precedent for defining what a hate crime really is. And open up a really big can of worms over political dissent.
While no one can deny public arson deserves some sort of criminal penalty, simply burning a sign does not seem equivalent to spray-painting swastikas, smearing feces or physically assaulting someone. Will it become a “hate crime” to simply speak out in opposition?
What do you think, folks?
[Note: This post was authored by Michael Lee. Follow him on Twitter @UAMichaelLee]